Highlights from the Week: Magic and crisis of Motherhood and more

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Highlights from the Week: Magic and crisis of Motherhood and more

Puppets and Tolerance in Pakistan

In the narrow alleys of the poor Pakistani neighbourhood of Lyari, known for drugs, gang wars and a low literacy rate, children are learning about peace and love across the boundaries of faith – from puppets.

So reads the introduction to a constructive news story that made me pause and ponder a few things.

  1. Children in a poor neighborhood in Pakistan learn peace and love through puppets.

    It is never too early to start teaching children about important topics, particularly those dealing with selfhood and the dynamics between self and others. Growing confident and tolerant/loving human beings is neither an easy thing nor a small thing, for much of our joy and grief derives from this.

  2. Fictional characters are an effective, risk-free avenue for implanting principles and morals, and it works for all ages and across cultures.
  3. Presenting such story-sourced principles via age-appropriate methods significantly improves their effectiveness as learning tools.

This, of course, requires strategy, creativity, and patience, as often the positive effects unfold slowly. But it is never too early and it is never late to start planting good seeds.

In Lyari, the Thespianz Theatre teaches children

from the puppet Sinbad the Sailor, and his journeys around the world where he meets people of different faiths, languages and religions–who often do not have much tolerance for one another.

The traveling show aims to reach more underprivileged neighborhoods in the hope of raising awareness and embedding a spirit of love and tolerance. Their work is a good reminder that simple ideas serving a grand vision can have a snowball effect in time. A question always worth raising is: what creative ideas can your group of friends or your small church community come up with to serve your local context needs? We must never underestimate the power of a good idea that puts people’s talents to use, and leaders would do well to encourage and support such initiatives.

Mother’s Day: Between Joy and Grief

Mother’s Day can be a day of joy or sorrow for those who have hope or despair.

With Mother’s Day around the corner, another news article that caught to my eyes highlighted the struggles of women who experience depression during pregnancy. This is common when the baby has a small chance of survival; living between hope and despair is consuming and can easily onset depression and anxiety. The happiness-centered Mother’s Day advertisement can heighten the grief of women whose hope hinge on a thread. But the money-driven pushy portrayal of ideal may stir a host of emotions in healthy pregnancies, too. Tina Green writes:

As a society, we desperately desire our pregnant women to be self-sacrificing, glowing and eagerly anticipating their bundles of joy.

Yet “this ideal image denies the reality of the many pregnant women who experience anxiety and depression” – 1 in 7 according to some studies. The pregnancy depression, which has not been assigned a medical term (such as postpartum depression) is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are so similar to those of pregnancy, clarifies Green.

But treating it early can aid the mother through the transition, improve the relational dynamics with the partner and other children, help the fetus develop well, and reduce the risk of postpartum depression. Holistic care that “integrates mental health with maternal health” is needed, especially when,

in 34 states, doctors are legally required to provide [women] with counseling before an abortion, but there is no mandate to provide [women] with counseling support … even when [she] carr[ies] a child that has a 1 percent chance of surviving.

Point well taken.

A question that this article raised in my mind is: how should we celebrate the joy and beauty of life when it is so often tangled with sorrow and grief? The challenges of pregnancy illustrate so well the muddle of good and evil spoken about in Genesis 2 and 3. As a former hospital chaplain, I have stood by devastated families as they mourned the crumbling of a much-anticipated future. I have also had close friends who lost a baby before birth or soon after, and I presume that most people have either experienced this personally or know someone close who has.

And the pregnancy depression, while not clinically defined, is all too much known in some circles. The pregnancy period is a delicate time both for the mother and for those interacting with her, for even the best intentions can miss the mark. Still, we all can do something for a mother (and mothers are all who conceive, whether the baby is born or not), and it is easier than we think. We can create a safe context and give her the time and space to be her real self. Less assuming and talking, and more listening to the unique experience of each mother cannot only foster healthier relational dynamics but it can provide a powerful avenue for healing and a strong defense against prejudice and judgment. The safer they will feel around us, the more they will open up, and the shared experience of loss and gain, of grief and delight, is just what living this life is about.

Dialogue: The Path Away from Violence

With the increase of violence, how can we learn to have peace? 

Religious, racial, and gender violence are routine news nowadays. But this is old news. As the Bible tells, violence in our world began with Cain soon after the fall and it has been part and parcel of our history for thousands of years. I have often been discouraged by how slowly our human race learns to live in peace. You may rightly wonder why I even hope, knowing that the Bible predicts moral decline and that history doesn’t negate it. I hope because I refuse to give up on us, and I hope because I believe that God exists and can change us. And if God can help us and we can change with His help, then what is missing? What disease of the soul spreads its roots so deeply that a human can take another’s life?

The most pervasive and daring hate is probably the hate perpetuated culturally and generationally. It is also the most difficult to break out of because it is mingled with loyalty for the group to which you belong. To feel otherwise is to betray the community that has given you an identity and a place in society. Moreover, if somebody can praise your hatred and your violence, maybe these really aren’t bad. And if you have a community to fall back on after perpetuating violence, then you are safe. What can stop you from the evil bred in you since birth?

This article highlights the fact that a lack of communication between different communities is the perfect host for the hate virus. As an example, Sri Lanka, which has recently suffered from religious violence, is home to four ethnic and religious communities, but 70% of the population doesn’t have any friends in another group.

If you don’t have a friend outside of your ethnic group, you’re making your decision to hurt somebody based on what? Things you heard, based on prejudice, based on assumptions,

…said Neluni Tillekeratne from Sri Lanka Unites during the 5th edition of a conference organized by The World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue. When you are expected to hate others, and when others are just names or faces, how can you learn their value as a human being? How can you stand outside of your prejudiced world to see them in a better light? How can you break out of your fear that the others will not hurt you before you hurt them?

As this article suggests, communication is a sure path towards reconciliation and friendship is a certain cure to hatred. Of course, being friends does not here mean folk with whom you hang out all the time. It means “not being enemies,” having good will towards each other. It means building a trust puzzle in which neither group fears the other–one piece at a time; one “hello” at a time, one “how are you” at a time, one “meal together” at a time, one “helping each other” at a time, until we learn that it is possible to live together in harmony.

Many of us probably think this does not apply to us, that we don’t have enemies, and that we would never do what some perpetrators do. Yet history has shown that in times of utter distress people can betray their deepest values for their own safety and forsake an almighty God for their skin, and some of this history is being unfolded today. But let me ask you this (and I am asking myself the same): when is the last time you said “Hello, how are you?” to someone different than you? It is so easy to stay in your comfort zone; yet leaving it in order to reach out to others may have unmeasurable benefits.

 

The clearest example is Jesus who left His comfort zone in heaven as Prince of the Universe to live among us. He did this to see up-close how we are doing, to eat with us, to help us, and, of course, to provide the unique means of reconciliation between us and God–His sacrifice. No bridge is built in a day, but bridges alone help us cross some vast gaps. May Christ’s example encourage us to genuinely ask someone different than us a simple “How are you?” It may be the first brick to a vital bridge.

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Adelina Alexe is a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. She loves God and enjoys nature, arts, and meaningful conversation. Her special research interests are narrative theology and hermeneutics.